With the CBA still seemingly a long way from settled, what will this mean for Tim Tebow's immediate and longer term future?
He was able to spend much of last season under the tutelage of his mentor and believer Josh McDaniels, who traded up to get for him in the first round of the 2010 NFL draft. Some say that was a stretch, but it is what it is, and it certainly wasn't Tebow's fault.
Then, Josh was gone, Orton was injured, and Tim got some playing time when it counted, kind of. By the time he was starting, Denver was out of the playoffs and was shown to be a team with a decent offense but a lousy defense.
And given the chance to play in the last three games, here was an opportunity to see where Mr. Tebow was in his progression from a college player to an NFL QB.
Let's take a look at those games and what they showed us and then discuss where he is in his progression at this time, given the ongoing lockout.
Tim Tebow's first start came in the Oakland Raider game, in Oakland, in the Black Hole. Not a great place to begin your NFL starting career.
With Orton inactive and unable to lift his throwing arm all week, it was a chance for the rookie to get his baptism under fire.
But he showed courage and the ability to stand tall and make some throws as well as run the offense, although it was dumbed down to some extent, given it was his first starting NFL game. Screen passes and short outs to keep him away from reading middle field defenses, running plays and simple reads on his WRs and not trying to challenge the Oakland defense to any great extent.
The result was a 39-23 loss and maybe a first lesson in what is needed to be a successful NFL QB. He did have a disputed TD to WR Brandon Lloyd in the first half, where it was a jump ball and should have been intercepted. They went into the locker room at the half tied at 17.
In the second half, the Oakland defense stood up and made life very rough on not only the rookie QB, but the rest of the Denver team. Many of the offensive series went three-and-out, and Tebow was harassed for most of the rest of the game.
The three positive things that came out of this test was first, his poise, at least in the first half.
The second was the defense didn't get 59 hung on them this time, only 39.
And Mr. Tebow survived with all his appendages still attached.
His stats: 8-16, 129 Yards, zero INTs, one TD, two sacks. 78 yards rushing, one TD.
Not bad stats, but when your QB is your leading rusher, it does not bode well for winning many football games. In the SEC maybe, but not the NFL.
This is what the fans came for: to see Tim live and in person and playing in front of the home crowd. With his jersey sales topping the charts and the huge clamor for him to be the starter and savior of this team, now was the chance to see how that will work out.
And it worked out pretty well. The Broncos pulled out a squeaker and won 24-23.
Tebow wowed his fans with a 16-29 308 yard passing day. He threw one TD and one INT on a poor decision to Lloyd in the end-zone.
He also rushed 10 times for 27 yards and a TD.
Overall, a nice win against another struggling team (5-9) coming into this game.
But two caveats: There were still over 5,700 no-shows even with Tebow as the announced starter in place of the injured Orton. And the fact that this was against the 32nd ranked defense in the NFL.
But a win is a win.
Finally, this game can put to bed maybe the worst season in Broncos history, at least in the last 25 years or so.
It was between two teams that had nothing to play for but pride. San Diego was out of the playoff picture with a 8-7 record, and the Broncos, well, were just trying to survive and clean out their lockers.
But it was a home game AND it was a third straight start for TT. But again, over 4,000 no-shows, which means even Tebow can't make up for bad football to smart football fans in Denver.
This might have been called the Nate Kaeding/Ryan Matthews show, as Kaeding was 3-4 on FGs, only missing on a 53 yarder. And he had three XPs, giving him 15 points for the game. And Ryan Matthews finally showed some of why the Chargers drafted him and finished with 120 yards and three TDs. They were responsible for all the San Diego points.
Tebow had another decent game, going 16-36 for 205 yards and 2 INTs and 2 TDs. He also led the team in rushing with 94 yards and a TD.
He had a good first half but in the second half was harassed by the Chargers defense and at times reverted to his "from the hip" throws when pressured.
It was an exciting game right to the end with a recovered on-side kick with 26 second left but Tebow's two deep passes were easily knocked down and the game ended 33-28.
It wasn't as close as the score showed since Denver got within striking distance after Cassius Vaughn returned a kickoff 97 yards for a TD in the 4th quarter.
Tim Tebow is unarguably one of the top players to come out of college, ever. And the fan (some say cult) following he has had both while at Florida and with his being drafted in the first round by the Broncos is a saga never seen before in the NFL.
Coming off his last three games of the 2010 season and (thankfully) a new head coach (John Fox) and a new head of football operations (John Elway) 2011 looked to be a great opportunity for Tim Tebow to work hard in the off-season and at OTAs and make a serious push for the starting job over incumbent Kyle Orton.
But then the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement came to an end and the lockout happened.
Other than the draft, which produced some help for this talent-challenged team, there has been no other official activities. No official workouts or any contact between the coaching staff and the players.
And this is not a good thing for Mr. Tebow. Looking at his game now and what were shown to be needed areas of improvements, time is not on his side.
Tebow needs a lot of help on his reads, especially the second and third checkdowns as well as the ability and confidence to throw over the middle. He needs to work on his footwork from under center and to make smart decisions with the ball, which doesn't mean to always tuck and run when things break down.
Mr. Elway knows that and if you watch films of Elway's game, he ran out of the pocket to set up for a better passing option, not to try and gain yards with his feet.
And with your QB being your leading rusher in 2/3rds of the games started, you will not win many football games or any championships. Look it up, it has never happened.
So, are we seeing a great college football player that has reached his peak and running into the lockout or will we see a player who can overcome his deficiencies with hard work and a franchise that will give him the chance to prove himself?
With John Fox as head coach, we will likely see a more conservative style that will put more focus on the run and a passing game over the middle utilizing the TE. We will also see a defense in reconstruction that will call for an offense to not make mistakes while this rebuilding is going on. One good defensive draft will not make up for all of McDaniels' stupidity.
I think we will see him getting his chance, but it just may not be as the starter game 1 next season. And that is not a bad thing. Really.
We will just have to wait and see what this all means for Tim Tebow.
Just one Bronco fan(atic)'s opinion.